Melissa does a lot of school visits and finds that kids are curious about so many things. She says, “… the more that we can fuel their interests, the more that we can engage them and keep them excited about science, the more it will help us all. And we’ll have a future where kids are going into STEM careers and making a difference in the world.”
Melissa talks about the importance of assimilating all of your research, in order to make your own personal meaning. In her writing workshops, Melissa has students ask these questions about their topic: What is it that resonates with you? What about this person is specifically exciting to you? What are you dying to share with other people? When you focus in on that, your writing will become more engaging.
Melissa says that if you want kids to connect to ideas, a great thing to do is to pair a fiction and nonfiction book. That way kids can have exposure to both kinds of writing. She also suggests immersing them kids in different kinds of nonfiction, allowing them to see what the wide world of nonfiction has to offer.
Melissa shares a few fun ideas for sharing nonfiction with young readers. Have you tried a March Madness (nonfiction league) or a Mock Sibert Awards at your school? Find more ideas on Melissa’s website(opens in a new window).
Melissa notes that many children gravitate towards nonfiction, but don’t always see themselves as readers. For some kids, nonfiction is the gateway to literacy. Melissa believes that nonfiction should be an integral part of any classroom library, school library, and home library — and should be part of instruction in the classroom.
Melissa says that it’s important to think carefully about vocabulary when you’re writing a children’s book. A sprinkling of large words can add a lot to the text, especially when they are specific, precise words that describe a certain phenomenon or animal behavior. You don’t want so many large words that children really have trouble following the text or they feel overwhelmed.
Melissa talks about the primary ways she does research for her books: reading books, scientific articles, and magazines on the topic, carefully using content from the Internet, and consulting with experts.